Terence McKenna was fascinated by history, which he theorized to be a finite process—lasting ~10,000 to ~25,000 years—that would end in a phase shift, not unlike the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, or the birth of a fetus into the world. As he said in "Gathering Momentum for a Leap" (1994):
"The enterprise of understanding is dizzying. It's an ecstasy in itself. That's why, to me, what the essence of being psychedelic is is a flirtation with detail and multiplicity. I mean, that's why I'm so fascinated by history, because it's such a complex object. I like complex stuff—history, art history, philosophy, languages, magic—all of these things. I like the well-wrought and complex, the pattern turned in on to itself, the place where mind has moved across the sand and left a tracing."
McKenna also seemed to enjoy viewing ideas, people, words, phrases, books, and other things as—in addition to what each of these things are in and for themselves—memes. In a lecture called "DMT, Mathematical Dimensions, Syntax and Death," McKenna said:
"One of the things that I feel I'm doing very consciously in these kinds of meetings is: we're trying to launch and replicate memes. You all know this concept? A meme is the smallest unit of an idea in the same way that a gene is the smallest unit of organism. And, so, these things—DMT elves, transcendental object at the end of history, so forth—these are memes. [...] It's almost like the ideological environment is like a rainforest, or a coral reef. Evolution is taking place."
Combining McKenna's attraction toward history, his focus on memes, and his perspective that "the world is made of language," I created a chronological list of 30 McKenna-related books, ideas, people, and other things that I haven't yet written about in this column. Due to the depth and variety of McKenna's intellectual pursuits, this list feels to me more like a personal, idiosyncratic collection of McKenna-related memes than an attempt to represent McKenna's mind. Any person who engages with McKenna's oeuvre—his books, lectures, essays—could, I imagine, easily create their own 30-meme list, which would potentially be significantly and, I think, interestingly different than my, or any other person's, list.
1. Shamanism (at least since ~10,000 BC and possibly hundreds of thousands of years earlier)
McKenna discovered shamanism, or "the archaic techniques of ecstasy," as he often quoted Mircea Eliade (1907-1987) on the subject, in 1967, as an undergraduate at Berkeley. Eliade, arguably until near the end of his life, viewed the "ingest psychedelic plant" technique as indicating a later, decadent form of shamanism, whereas McKenna had the opposite view—that non-plant techniques like "celibacy, withholding food, ordeals, flagellation, mutilation" indicated corrupted or non-original forms of shamanism. In a lecture from the early 1990s, McKenna observed:
"Shamanism is not some obscure concern of cultural anthropologists: shamanism is how religion was practiced for its first million years. Up until about 12,000 years ago, there was no other form of religion on this planet; that was how people attained some kind of access to the sacred."
In "Conversations At the Edge of Magic" (1994), McKenna said "Shamanism is about the felt presence of immediate experience in the absence of theory," and in "Tryptamine Hallucinogens and Consciousness" he observed that the shaman is usually "an intellectual and alienated from society." He elaborated:
"The shaman is to be found sitting at the headman's side in the council meetings, but after the council meeting he returns to his hut at the edge of the village. Shamans are peripheral to society's goings on in ordinary social life in every sense of the word. They are called on in crisis, and the crisis can be someone dying or ill, a psychological difficulty, a marital quarrel, a theft, or weather that must be predicted."
McKenna related his personal experience with shamans, whom he described as "not really in his culture" in The Archaic Revival (1991), in "In The Valley of Novelty" (1998):
"Part of the thing I found with hanging with shamans in various places and times is that once you get past the language barrier what shamans are are simply curious people, intellectuals of a certain type. In Australian Aboriginal slang, a Shaman is called 'a clever fellow.'"
2. I Ching (~2800 BC)
"I've been fascinated by the I Ching since I was 13 or 14 years old," said McKenna on public radio—audio of which, titled "I Ching," can be downloaded here—in the mid/late 1990s, calling it "a method of Chinese divination that's very, very old." He wrote in The Archaic Revival:
"The I Ching views time as a finite number of distinct and irreducible elements, in the same way that the chemical elements compose the world of matter. For the Taoist sages of pre-Han China, time was composed of sixty-four irreducible elements."
Chapter eight of The Invisible Landscape (1975), which McKenna co-wrote with his brother, elucidated the idea of "resonance thinking in Chinese intellectual constructs" with an excerpt from Science and Civilisation in China by Joseph Needham; the excerpt cited a 5th century text in which a Taoist monk answered a question about the fundamental idea of the I Ching by saying that it could be expressed in one word, resonance:
"We are told that when the Copper Mountain...collapsed in the west, the bell Ling Chung responded (ying), by resonance, in the east."
McKenna's timewave theory utilized the King Wen sequence of the I Ching. As he wrote in True Hallucinations (1993): "I succeeded finally in 1974 in achieving a completely formal, mathematical quantification of the fractal structure that I had unearthed inside the structure of the I Ching."
3. Heraclitus (535-475 BC)
McKenna expressed his fondness for Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who wasn't considered to be part of any school of thought, in True Hallucinations:
"'All flows,' said a beloved Greek. Heraclitus was called the crying philosopher, as if he spoke in desperation. But, why crying? I love what he says—it does not make me cry. Rather than interpret pante rhea as "nothing lasts," I had always considered it a Western expression of the idea of Tao."
"Some of you may know the 52nd fragment of Heraclitus where he says "the aeon is a child at play with colored balls." The aeon is the child that you encounter in the elfdome."
4. Plato (~425-348/347 BC)
Plato, a Greek philosopher and Socrates's student, was born between 429-423 BC and died in 348/347 BC. "I think of myself as a sort of a Whiteheadian Platonist," wrote McKenna in The Archaic Revival, referring to Plato and, number seven on this list, Alfred North Whitehead. In True Hallucinations, McKenna wrote:
"When Plato remarked that "Time is the moving image of Eternity," he made a statement every voyage into the DMT space reinforces. Like the shift of epoch called the apocalypse and anticipated by religious hysterics, DMT seems to illuminate the regions beyond death. And what is the dimension beyond life as illuminated by DMT? If we can trust our own perceptions, then it is a place in which thrives an ecology of souls whose stuff of being is more syntactical than material. It seems to be a nearby realm inhabited by eternal elfin entelechies made entirely of information and joyous self-expression."
5. Wei Boyang (2nd century AD)
McKenna often referenced Wei Boyang, "a semimythical figure from the Kuaji area of modern Zhejiang believed to have been active in the middle of the second century," according to Taoism and the Arts of China (2000) by Stephen Little, on the topic of worry. In "Stop Worrying or Being Anxious, It's Pointless," McKenna said:
"You know, Wei Boyang, a great Chinese Taoist who wrote many, many commentaries on the I Ching—he was asked, at the end of his life, what was his conclusion of a life of studying the I Ching, and he said "worry is preposterous." That was it."
6. A True And Faithful Rendition (1658) by John Dee
In "Hermeticism and Alchemy" (1991), McKenna described John Dee (1517-1608/1609) as "the greatest magician of his age and the greatest scientist of his age" and called A True And Faithful Rendition, whose full, page-long title can be read here, "One of the most astonishing books in all of English literature." McKenna noted: "And until the last ten years, the 1658 edition was the only edition ever published." Dee's book, McKenna wrote in The Archaic Revival, is comprised of diary entries spanning ten years and recording "hundreds of spirit conversations, including the delivery to Dee and Kelley of an angelic language called Enochian, composed of non-English letters, but which computer analysis has recently shown to have curious grammatical relationship to English."
7. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Whitehead was an English mathematician and philosopher. He co-wrote the three-volume Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913) with Bertrand Russell, who had been his student at Trinity College, Cambridge. "I base a lot of what I think and feel on Whitehead," said McKenna in "Touched by the Tremendum" (1990). In "The Evolutionary Importance of Technology" (1989), McKenna discussed Whitehead and feelings:
"Whitehead, who I take as my mentor, created a mathematically formal metaphysic in which the primary datum of experience is feelings. I mean, that's a direct quote from Whitehead. The only thing you can trust at this point--and some of you have heard me say this before--is the felt presence of immediate experience, otherwise known as feelings, and mathematics. And mathematics is something that most of you have been denied in order to keep you marks. So all you have are feelings. And so it's very important to empower this dimension, which Husserl or Merle Ponte or somebody called the felt presence of immediate experience. Everything proceeds from that. Even thought is subsequent to feeling."
8. A Rebours (1884) by Joris-Karl Huysmans
In The Archaic Revival, McKenna called Against the Grain, as it's titled in English, "an amazing novel about a man who is so sensitized to perception that he can't leave his apartment." McKenna elaborated:
"He has his walls covered in felt and keeps the lights very low. He collects Redon when nobody had ever heard of Redon. He buys turtles and has jewels affixed to their backs. Then he sits in a half-lit room and smokes hashish and watches the turtles crawl around on his Persian rugs. Let's all go home and do this."
9. Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
Discussing his and his brother Terence's love of science-fiction authors in the early 1960s, Dennis McKenna wrote in The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss (2012) that "it was Clarke who had the greatest impact on our thinking, thanks largely to his novels Childhood's End (1953) and The City and the Stars (1956)." These two, early novels by Clark, which to me were moving and surprising and enriched, I think, by a knowledge of McKenna's work—and vice versa—could be said to expand on ideas and worlds that were mentioned or implied in Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker (1937), the next meme on this list.
In The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss, Dennis summarized The City and the Stars:
"The City and the Stars begins in Diaspar, a super-technological city a billion years in Earth's future whose inhabitants maintain their longevity through what Clarke termed the Eternity Circuits, an early anticipation of nanotechnology. Only a fraction of the populace is incarnate at a given time; the rest are stored as solid-state templates in the Central Computer."
And Childhood's End:
"It begins in what for Clarke was still the near future. Just as the Soviets and Americans near the furious end of their race to launch the first space probe, mile-wide starships appear, poised over every major city in the world. And there they remain, or seem to, asserting their presence but otherwise hardly communicating. Decades pass; eventually the population becomes so accustomed to the vessels they are all but ignored. It is then that the visitors send an emissary to the surface, a figure whose shocking appearance activates a number of archetypes long buried in the human psyche."
10. Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon
Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) was a British philosopher, novelist, and poet. An overview of him can be found in The New York Science Fiction Review. Arthur C. Clarke called Star Maker, "Probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written."
The phrase "felt presence" in Star Maker—"The felt presence of the Star Maker remained unintelligible, even though it increasingly illuminated the cosmos, like the splendor of the unseen sun at dawn"—reminded me of McKenna's meme/phrase "the felt presence of immediate experience."
11. Kathleen Harrison (1948-)
McKenna, who was born in 1946, met Kathleen Harrison—his future-wife and future-divorcee—in 1967, four years before "the experiment at La Chorrera." In the spring of 1975, they met again—a reconnection McKenna described in True Hallucinations:
"Kat, an old friend met years before in Jerusalem during my opium and kabbala phase, became at last my lover. Eight years had passed since we had circumambulated the Mosque of Omar. She was a tide pool gazer and a solitary traveler. The mushroom had made good its promise to send another partner to share the ongoing journey through the interior world."
They married on November 22, 1976, created two children—Finn in 1978 and Klea in 1980—and in 1985 founded Botanical Dimensions to "collect, protect, propagate and understand plants of ethno-medical significance and their lore." (Harrison speaks about Botanical Dimensions in this video from the World Psychedelic Forum in 2008 in Switzerland. Also available is her lecture on Salvia at the same gathering.) In 1992, McKenna and Harrison divorced. From True Hallucinations:
"As I write these words my marriage to Kat of nearly sixteen years seems caught up in a process of dissolution painful to both of us. This despite our two children, the house we built together, and both our efforts to be decent people. Apparently the presence of the Logos has done nothing to mitigate or ward off the ordinary vicissitudes of life. Like the Soul in Yeats's poem I am still an eternal thing fastened to the body of a dying animal."
From the acknowledgements section of Food of the Gods (1992):
"My partner Kat, Kathleen Harrison McKenna, has long shared my passion for the psychedelic ocean and the ideas that swim there. In our voyages to the Amazon and elsewhere she has been the best possible companion, colleague, and muse."
12. Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries (1959) by Mircea Eliade
McKenna said in "Appreciating Imagination" (1994):
"There's a wonderful phrase in Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries...where he's talking about powered flight, of all things. The Wright Brothers. And he says, whatever we make of this as an engineering feat, it speaks volumes about the human psyche's desire to transcend itself infinitely. And so, in a sense, powered flight is a psychological breakthrough, because man flies. And then, spacecraft—we break beyond the embrace of gravity. These technological breakthroughs are always presented as overcoming some set of boundary constraints imposed by nature. And in virtual reality all boundary constraints are overcome by nature. Just as in the imagination. But the imagination, metabolically sustained—in other words, you eat well, then you smoke a lot of hash, then you enter into an imaginative reality, but as metabolism ebbs and flows, as your food digests, as the drugs leave your system, this reality, whatever it is, falls to pieces, and is washed away. But the virtual realities created in code are more enduring; they're in fact as enduring as the code-maker. And so we're beginning to talk in terms of dreams that don't go away."
13. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) by Marshall McLuhan
In "Riding Range With Marshall McLuhan" (1995), McKenna compared McLuhan to James Joyce (1882-1941), saying they were both unique personalities that spawned no highly visible successors:
"McLuhan—I don't know how many of you recall him from the 60s, but he had, for a very brief period of time, about five or six years, an extraordinary influence on American culture. You couldn't pick up a magazine or turn on the TV without hearing McLuhan, McLuhan, what he said, what he thought, what he predicted [...] He died in the early 70s, and his influence died with him."
Understanding Media is written in a notably, I think, for a nonfiction book, stylized prose that seemed almost like a series of easy-to-read near-nonsequiturs. I imagined it being read aloud quickly as prose poetry. McKenna said it was "immensely discussed when it came out, and probably very little read judging by the quality of the discussion."
14. Hallucinogens and Shamanism (1973) by Michael J. Harner (editor)
Hallucinogens and Shamanism is an anthology, edited by Michael J. Harner, of ten essays, organized into four sections: "In the Primitive World: The Upper Amazon," "In Cultures Undergoing Westernization," "In the Traditional Western World," and "Hallucinogens and Shamanism: The Question of a Transcultural Experience." The seventh essay is Henry Munn's "The Mushrooms of Language," which McKenna frequently referenced, calling it "one of the most eloquent and beautiful essays ever written on psilocybin" in "In the Valley of Novelty" and, in The Archaic Revival, writing:
"It is reasonable to suggest that human language arose out of the synergy of primate organizational potential by plant hallucinogens. Indeed, this possibility was brilliantly anticipated by Henry Munn in his essay "The Mushrooms of Language" (1973). Munn writes: 'Language is an ecstatic activity of signification. Intoxicated by the mushrooms, the fluency, the ease, the aptness of expression one becomes capable of are such that one is astounded by the words that issue forth from the contact of the intention of articulation with the matter of experience. The spontaneity the mushrooms liberate is not only perceptual, but linguistic. For the shaman, it is as if existence were uttering itself through him.'"
15. Interstellar Communication: Scientific Perspectives (1974) by Ponnamperuma & Cameron
McKenna referred to this collection of ten essays—by Carl Sagan, Frank D. Drake, and others—as Scientific Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Communication in True Hallucinations:
"Speculative ideas indeed! But strangely enough many of the most current calculations and ideas about the density of life and intelligence in the galaxy confront exobiologists with the dilemma of why we have not yet been contacted. Cyril Ponnamperuma and A.G.W. Cameron's Scientific Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Communication gives an excellent overview of current thinking on the subject. R.N. Bracewell's contribution printed in the same work was the basis of my own ideas about interstellar probes."
In Carl Sagan's contribution, he observed that, where there are cities, the resolution of the earth takes on a "checkerboard pattern when viewed [aerially] at better than 100-meter resolution," and that "The origin of life on suitable planets seems built into the chemistry of the universe." Somewhat related and of interest is Carl Sagan's essay on Cannabis, written in 1969 under a pen name.
16. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1976) by Julian Jaynes
McKenna sometimes mentioned this book, observing, among other things, that it notably didn't examine the role of psychedelics despite featuring audio hallucinations in its theory. McKenna wrote in The Archaic Revival:
"Julian Jaynes, in his controversial book...makes the point that there may have been major shifts in human self-definition even in historical times. He proposes that through Homeric times people did not have the kind of interior psychic organization that we take for granted. What we call ego was for pre-Homeric people what they called a "god." When danger threatened suddenly and unbidden, the god's voice was heard in the individual's mind, a kind of metaprogram for survival called forth under great stress. This integrative psychic function was perceived by those experiencing it to be either the direct voice of a god; the direct voice of the leader of the society, the king; or the direct voice of the dead king, the king in the afterlife. Merchants and traders moving from one society to another brought the unwelcome news that the gods were saying different things in different places, and so cast early seeds of doubt. At some point people integrated (in the Jungian sense) this previously autonomous function, and each person became the god and reinterpreted the inner voice as the "self" or, as it was later called, the 'ego.'"
17. VALIS (1981) by Philip K. Dick
McKenna wrote about Philip K. Dick in his essay "I Understand Philip K. Dick" (1991):
"When I compare Phil's system to mine, my hair stands on end. We were both contacted by the same unspeakable something. Two madmen dancing, not together, but the same dance anyhow."
McKenna was born November 16, 1946 in Colorado and died April 3, 2000 at age 53 in San Rafael, California, and Dick was born December 16, 1928 in Illinois and died March 2, 1982 at age 53 in Santa Ana, California. References that occur in both VALIS and in Terence's work include the I Ching, the Logos, Plato, Jung, Heraclitus, Mircae Eliade, Faust, Minoan Crete, Eleusis, Hermetism, Gnosticism, DNA, the world as information, and the world as hologram.
Sentences I enjoyed from VALIS:
"There is no route out of the maze. The maze shifts as you move through it, because it is alive."
"If Fat was psychotic, you must admit that it is a strange sort of psychosis to believe that you have encountered an in-breaking of the rational into the irrational."
"A sufficiently advanced technology would seem to us to be a form of magic; Arthur C. Clarke has pointed that out."
"As we walked away from the child, I said, "Her voice is the neutral AI voice that I've heard in my head since 1974."
18. The Creative Explosion: An Inquiry into the Origins of Art and Religion (1982) by John E. Pfeiffer
In "Psychedelics and the Feminine" (1989), McKenna recommended Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade (which I examined in Why Are Psychedelics Illegal?) and Pfeiffer's The Creative Explosion, which analyzed prehistoric cave art in Spain and France. McKenna said: "Notice that both of these books that I recommended contain long passages about sudden outbursts of creative brilliance on the cultural level." From The Creative Explosion:
"Today things become out of date in a hurry, songs and fashions, slang and art styles, scientific theories and politics. There is a great deal to talk about, and often one generation has difficulty understanding what another is saying. But imagine suffering from a lack of generation gap, in a static world in which people are living exactly by the same traditions and customs that prevailed 10,000 generations ago. That was the world of our ancestors."
19. Communication and Noncommunication by the Cephalopods (1985) by Martin Moynihan
McKenna referenced this in "The World Could Be Anything" (1990), calling it "a wonderful book" that "makes the point that communication is a very double-edged thing. You want to communicate to somebody, but usually it's also important that your message not be picked up by other somebodies."
20. The difference between psychedelics in the 1960s and now
In "Man & Woman At The End Of History" (1988), McKenna noted a significant difference in how psychedelics were viewed in the 1960s and 20 years later:
"If you look back at the literature of the underground in the 60s, certain things that we take completely for granted are totally absent. One of them is any sense of the historical context of hallucinogenic and shamanic ecstasy—there is no talk about shamanism. There is a little bit of talk about peyote, but no real awareness that...those people in the 1960s thought they were discovering something brand new, not the oldest religion in the world."
21. Mind Children (1988) by Hans Moravec
McKenna said in "Evolving Times" (1995):
"There are some wild thinkers out there. Far wilder than me. If you want to read a wild book, read Hans Moravec's book Mind Children: The Future of Human and Artificial Intelligence. Now there's a book."
22. The octopus as the 21st century's totemic animal
In "The World Could Be Anything," McKenna compared the human mode of "small mouth noise" communication—in which one person makes noises to another person, who checks their unique, internal dictionary for the meanings of those noises, then makes their own noises, etc.—with that of the octopus:
"Now notice what's happening with the octopi. There is no dictionary. Both parties are seeing the same thing because my body is my meaning. I become my meaning. And you behold the meaning I have become. I am like a naked thought. Not even a naked nervous-system. More naked than that. I am like a naked thought, in aqueous space, unfolding in time. I maintain this is why octopi eject clouds of ink: it's so they can have private thoughts."
In the same lecture, he suggested octopi as the totemic animal for the 21st century:
"Our previous animal totems were chosen unconsciously and were rather unfortunate, I think: I take the totem of the 19th century to be, um, the horse, expressed as the steam engine. And the totemic animal of the 20th century is the raptor, the bird of prey, expressed as supersonic high-performance fighter aircraft, which is just, you know, the leanest, meanest machine you can get together these days. But these mammalian and avian images are too close to the rapacious heart of the primate inside us; embracing an image of the soul like that of the octopi is permission for a strange and alien kind of beauty to be let into our lives."
23. Time travel will end history
In Chaos, Creativity, and Cosmic Consciousness (1992), McKenna examined a scenario in which time travel ends history:
"In one of the scenarios I've imagined, time travel will be discovered and history will end, suddenly—just bang. People beyond that point will look back at us the way we look at the Anasazi and talk about how people used to live in linear time: all that waiting for stuff to happen in a strange jelly of stiffened dimensionality. To people born into a time-traveling world, the previous mode of existence will be mere rumor. When they are in the future, they will be able to travel back into the past, but no further than the discovery of the first time machine. Before that moment there were no time machines, and they can't take a time machine into a universe where time machines don't exist."
"...suddenly all of the future will happen instantly. On Earth today, the more advanced cultures tend to influence, and finally to dominate, the less advanced cultures. This is similar to the equalization of pressure inside a closed chamber of gases. In the same way that gases confined in a space equalize pressure to a uniform value, cultures tend to take on some of the characteristics of the most advanced cultural level with which they are in contact. This happens whether the cultures in question are confined to a single planet and a single historical epoch or are confined within a temporal domain defined by the limits of a time-traveling technology."
"The most advance state of human accomplishment, even if it is billions of years in the future and absolutely beyond our ability to imagine, will appear one millisecond after the temponaut takes off, on the other side of the time threshold. This technology takes the entire future history of the universe, up until its conclusion, and compresses it down into the next few milliseconds. We will then be face to face with the end purpose of all evolution, all process, all pattern, all energy, space, time, and matter."
24. Why was Terence McKenna not in jail?
In "The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge" (1992), an audience member asked McKenna why he was not in jail. McKenna answered "number one: I don't know," then suggested three possible reasons:
1. He was viewed as an intellectual.
"Notice that I use big words. I don't try to boil it down to a shoutable slogan, like turn on, tune in, drop out? Uh-uh, that—then they come, they come. So that's one possibility—that, simply, if you are defined in their eyes as an intellectual, then they automatically put you in the harmless category and send resources elsewhere."
2. He was "sanctioned."
McKenna called this possibility "slightly more disturbing" than the first possibility. He elaborated:
"Perhaps they decided: 'We don't really understand what this stuff is, and we can't have a mass movement. But let one guy just kind of keep the pilot light on in case we ever change our minds about this. He would have kept the pilot light on.'"
3. He hadn't been noticed
McKenna said: "And the other possibility, which is probably too naïve but in the interest again of exhaustive thoroughness, maybe they just haven't noticed yet." Tim Leary, McKenna observed, would address 25,000 people at a time, whereas McKenna's audiences would "creep over a thousand" a few times per year. "I think the key is to keep it low-key," said McKenna. "It's very good to atomize it and spread it through."
25. Secrets are a way of controlling people
In "Nothing Lasts" (1994), McKenna called secrets "a way of controlling other people" and said he was "very suspicious" of them. "I mean, if you tell me one it's finished," he said. "I took a pledge long ago to tell all secrets as quickly as possible." He elaborated in "Rapdancing into the 3rd Millenium":
"A long, long, time ago—and we all have different opinions, this is mine, I hope it doesn't offend—but a long, long, time ago I took an oath to tell all secrets that came my way. Don't tell me a secret. I won't keep it. I'm against secrets, I'm against hierarchies, lineages, all assumption of special knowledge on the part of anyone in the presence of anyone else is abhorrent to me. I am a true anarchist first and foremost."
26. McKenna's website (1995)
McKenna's website, which was created in June 1995 and today seems to be in the form it was when he died in 2000, is comprised of four main pages—Hyperborea, The Novelty Report, Terence McKenna, and what could be viewed as the front page, which is linked on the other pages as "Update on Terence McKenna's Condition" and features ten updates from June 6, 1999 to April 3, 2000 on McKenna's brain cancer. The updates are written by Dennis (McKenna's brother), Dan Levy (McKenna's editor on two books), Christy Silness (McKenna's partner when he was diagnosed of cancer and until he died), and McKenna. From McKenna's June 25 update, three weeks after undergoing "gamma knife surgery":
"Naturally I go through all sorts of changes about my situation, and the drugs I take, seizure surpressing carbomazapine and the steroid decadron combine in different ways at different times and move me around from a kind of "whatever" euphoria to very emotional and thought provoking states."
27. "Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines" (1999)
McKenna's last lecture, "Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines," or "Shamans Among the Machines," was given in Seattle on April 7, 1999, a month and a half before he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
In the 58-minute lecture, McKenna discussed the difference between human and computer minds, nanotechnology, McLuhan, "spectrums of effect created by the linearity and the uniformity of print," that he may be an apocalyptarian but is not a pessimist, how "human progress has always depended on the whispering of alien mind," "the drug-like nature of the future," A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (1997) by Manuel De Landa, animals being "invented by plants to move them around," Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), machines as "prosthetic devices extending human consciousness somewhat like psychedelics," shamans as "4D people," virtual reality, and redeeming "the horror of history through a transformation of the human soul into a galaxy-roving vehicle via our machines and our drugs and the externalization of our souls."
28. McKenna had unpublished books "ready to go"
In an interview in 1999, when his brain cancer was public knowledge, McKenna answered a question about whether he felt there were written works he needed to complete:
"Well, I have books ready to go. But, you know I'm very realistic. And I suppose these things will get published in time. But, there's a lot of younger people coming up, and I'm glad for it. I mean people like yourself. And, the Lycaeum people. And all you guys at MAPS. I think, if no more of Terence McKenna were published or recorded, there's plenty of Terence McKenna out there. It would be good for my children to get a little more of this into the market. But do I feel cut off in mid spiel? No, I don't feel cut off in mid spiel. It's good to rotate the spokesman, or spokespeople, every once in a while. And I think that this whole thing is changing. I'm not sure that it is an entirely happy story. But Europe will shame the United States into better drug laws."
29. The internet as alien landing site
From an article on McKenna published in 2000 in Wired:
"Part of the myth of the alien," says McKenna, "is that you have to have a landing site. Well, I can imagine a landing site that's a Web site. If you build a Web site and then say to the world, 'Put your strangest stuff here, your best animation, your craziest graphics, your most impressive AI software,' very quickly something would arise that would be autonomous enough to probably stand your hair on end. You won't be able to tell whether you've got code, machine intelligence, or the real thing."
30. "Terence McKenna Big Bird" (2014)
On May 2, 2014, Josh Gura posted an eight minute 42 second video, "Terence McKenna Big Bird," that combined audio from McKenna's lectures with clips of an Icelandic version of Sesame Street, the children's show that premiered in America in 1969. I found the video soothing, stimulating, and highly rewatchable.
In the video, which I found soothing and highly rewatchable, McKenna Big Bird discusses public speaking, delusions and cults, the unspeakable as "the true domain of being," the provisional nature of all knowledge, the ego-dominator pathology of "demanding closure from everything," science as "meta-theory," René Descartes, why "the edifice of Western thinking built on Platonism owes its debt to an invisible agency speaking from hyperspace," the world being "stranger than we can suppose," how "as the sphere of understanding grows ever larger, necessarily the surface area of ignorance gets ever bigger," why the impact of psychedelic plants is "central to understanding who we are and how we got this way," Stoned Ape theory, Darwinian evolution, CNS arousal, and boundary dissolution.
"I'll try to be around and about. But if I'm not, then you know that I'm behind your eyelids, and I'll meet you there."
Follow Tao Lin on Twitter.